Financial Health and Criminal Justice: The Impacts of Involvement

The Financial Health Network surveyed 573 individuals about their own or a household member’s experience with the justice system to better understand the impacts on their financial health. Researchers surveyed individuals about each phase of their involvement from pretrial detention to incarceration and re-entry. Researchers also gathered information about the fines and fees levied against them at each phase, concluding that fines and fees put pressure on individuals and their household budgets. 

You can read the full text of the report here

Key Findings:

  • At each stage of interaction with the criminal justice system, courts may assess fines and fees. 
  • 78 percent of respondents reported having owed or currently owing fines and fees. 51 percent were not given an opportunity to reduce the amount owed through activities such as community service, and 22 percent were not given an opportunity to participate in a payment plan. 
  • Of the respondents who finished paying their fines and fees, one-third said that making payments was difficult or very difficult. 22 percent of those who still owed reported that making payments was difficult or very difficult. 
  • To afford payments, 26 percent of people cut back on essential spending, 19 percent stopped paying other debts, and 11 percent delayed rent, mortgage or utility payments. 
  • 10 percent of those surveyed were put in jail or prison due to nonpayment of court fines or fees; 13 percent had their driver’s license suspended as a consequence for failure to pay.
Arjun Kaushal, David Silberman, Tanya Ladha
Financial Health Network